2020 marked a year of acute and overdue reckoning about the systems of oppression we live with. Across the United States, many began to confront the deep ways that racism in particular has shaped our society. In the summer of 2020, Crisis Text Line committed to meeting the challenge of the day by transforming our organization from the inside out and standing on the side of justice. Our commitment to serving our texter community, in all of its racial, socioeconomic and mental health diversity, is the reason we are transforming our organization. We are taking steps to evolve Crisis Text Line’s culture and practices to prioritize equity, which in turn improves our ability to service our entire texter community.
Over the past six months, Crisis Text Line has embarked on a deeply considered organizational transformation to accelerate the work of intersectional racial, gender, economic and social equity. Intersectional injustice directly impacts the lives and mental health of people in BIPOC, LGBTQ, immigrant, low-income, disabled and otherwise disenfranchised communities.
It is critically important to society and to our organization that we do our part to address and counteract inequality. We are taking this opportunity to provide an update on our commitment to transformation and highlight some of the steps we have taken so far to advance a future where identity does not determine mental health outcomes.
A centuries-long history of structural racism, violence and oppression across the globe continues to acutely affect people every day. Crisis Text Line is committed to being a trusted resource for BIPOC and marginalized people in their moments of need, and is deepening our contribution to creating a more just and equitable world through our service to texters. We want to practice what we preach. That’s why our commitment is internal, external and consistent. We have committed to continually improving our systems and evolving our culture to meet this aspiration.
Our Transformation Collective
Crisis Text Line formed the Transformation Collective in the Fall of 2020 and embarked on a collaborative journey, including a series of trainings and workshops to build a shared analysis of racial equity and to develop an equity transformation plan for our organization.
In forming this collective, comprised of senior leadership, a newly created Transformation Team and staff from each department, we set out to take actionable steps toward our goals, and together with our community, create the path forward. It is not enough for organizational leadership to mandate new ways of being. The Transformation Collective allows us to hear from and co-design a more equitable organization with the Crisis Text Line community, from the inside out.
Our Actions to Date — Some Highlights
Our commitment to equity is an investment in the future we want to help create.. We have shifted our resources to help ensure equity is stitched into everything we do, from our core operations to our outreach. Crisis Text Line has:
- Created a new budget category and made an initial investment of $500,000 dedicated exclusively to advancing our equity and transformation efforts. This included staff training and collaboration with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion experts to support building equity into every aspect of our organization.
- Devoted 5,000 hours of staff time thus far to Equity efforts, including training, Transformation Collective workshops, and the collaborative development of an organization-wide Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion plan.
- Diversified the composition and perspective of our board, and added an employee board seat to expand board perspectives and increase efficacy.
- Hired Internist, Pediatrician and Trauma Expert, Shairi Turner, MD, MPH as our Chief Transformation Officer and leader of a newly formed Transformation Team.
- Added a Transformation and Inclusion Lead as part of the Transformation Team to cultivate dialogue skills, peace building and non-colonial conflict resolution practices throughout the organization.
- Expanded the People Operations department in order to increase focus on improving employee experience.
- Implemented anonymous reporting mechanisms for employees to submit complaints or inform us about issues.
- Revamped benefits and wellness options designed to build equity and encourage wellness, including a wellness stipend, a mental health stipend, the addition of floating holidays, company contribution to retirement plans, student loan repayment assistance and childcare support.
- Facilitated over 30 staff listening sessions, staff town halls and volunteer town halls to gather insight and actionable feedback from all sectors of our community.
- Introduced new external communication campaigns intended to increase access to coping tools and resources before people need to text in for support.
- Began producing educational content in Spanish to support the Latin@ community while we work to launch our Spanish language service this summer.
- Launched formal partnerships to expand access to our service with We R Native, Live Free 999 and Callen Lorde.
- Reviewed our data practices and crisis counselor training to increase cultural competence and decrease bias.
- Led meaningful community-building events including our Together We Heal workshop as part of President Elect Joe Biden’s National Day of Service initiatives. Our events attracted over 11,000 people and had the highest attendance of any participating organization.
The difficulty of this work does not scare us; it empowers us. It takes time for all of us to deconstruct old ways of doing things, increase trust and find new ways of working together. This journey is ongoing, but we remain committed to taking it, and to building new paths together with you. Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” At Crisis Text Line, we will keep doing our part to bend it.